It is the witching hour, when all the ghouls and bad men come out to play, when little children freeze in their beds at the strange sounds in the walls of their rooms, the wind in the trees howling. But you are not a ghoul, you are my daddy. And you are coming. With your kicking boots on. I know it.
IT’s raining outside, the roads are slick with oil and water. The streetlights glow eerily in the dark. It is silent. No cars, birds or voices. Inside, there is an air of expectancy; we are all tired and ready for bed. The party is over, the night is nearly gone. Its time for bed for all of us. I will sleep the sleep of the innocent – it is way past my bedtime, I shouldn’t be out this late but I am because she has had me out. She is drunk. So is he. Maybe even high. They are giggling and smoking, having one more drink before they go to bed. Their speech is slurred and they do not talk about anything in particular. There is smoke in the air of the living room from their ever burning cigarettes. The TV is off.
When the shrill ringing breaks the background silence no one starts, no one is surprised. Except him. He doesn’t expect the ringing. But we do, my mum and I. He is an outsider, he doesn’t know, he shouldn’t even be there. He is not welcome, not by me anyway. He has never been there when the phone rings in the early hours of the morning.
Mum and I both freeze. I glance over to the front door to reassure myself. Yes. The ironing board is wedged between the front door and the cupboard opposite. That will keep him out for a while. But not long as I well know
I shiver in my princess pajama’s that Nana made, look at mum. We don’t move. He asks if we are going to answer it. When we don’t respond to him, he gets up as if to answer the phone himself. We both yell, over the ringing for him not to. There will be dire consequences if he answers the phone. Eventually, the phone stops ringing. Mum and I do not relax though. It will start again and then we will have to answer it. I watch as mum tries to deflect the curiosity from him as he tries to find out why we didn’t answer the phone and why we now look scared. It’s none of his business.
There is silence for a couple of minutes. A cruel reprieve. Perhaps he has decided not to call again, to leave us in peace. Not create a world of pain. I start to feel hope, look at mum cautiously, she too hopes that he won’t ring back. But of course, if he doesn’t ring, he could be on his way over right now, could be down at the payphone at the end of our street, only minutes away. No. there is no relaxing or security until daylight approaches. It is going to be a long night.
As mum and I relax, the expectation of the ringing recedes, the phone screams again. Piercing the silence in the room. He swears in surprise. Mum jumps. I close my eyes and pray for it to stop. When I open my eyes, mum is trying to stop him from getting off the couch to answer the phone, all the time pleading for him to leave it.
I crawl along the carpet towards the phone. It’s the only hope of stopping the inevitable. I am nearly there when mum lunges towards the phone, she is closer. I know she is trying to protect me from the phone but nothing can protect us. As she picks up the receiver, I see her shaking and know how hard it is for her to do this. All of a sudden there is a shriek from the mouthpiece and we all hear the screaming.
“I’VE GOT MY KICKING BOOTS ON!”.
Mum tries to talk to Daddy on the phone, reason with him, pleads with him, argues with him. It’s hard for her through the barrage of abuse and yelling. Taunting Mum, calling her a whore, swearing he will kill her if she has anyone with her. Kill him as well. So much pain. So much anger. She isn’t getting anywhere you can hear that easily enough. He, the dickhead, tries again to take the phone from mum. He is a man, he will deal with it. He has no idea. Mum slams down the phone.
“Oh god I pray” You don’t hang up on Daddy. Even I know that.
Mum and dickhead start yelling at each other. Mum is crying, tears streaking her face, trying to get him to leave before Daddy comes over. Because he will.
The phone rings again. They fall silent we all look at the phone. This time I reach for it while mum shushes him to be quiet. But I already can see that he is a wimp, he won’t try again to interfere, he too heard the anger and the pain and realises he is no match for the monster that is Daddy.
There is silence at the other end.
Tentatively I speak. “Daddy?”
“Hi baby girl. Why are you up so late? Where’s Mummy?” He speaks calmly, quietly.
“She is here, but we want to go back to bed. You woke us when you called” Lying comes easily to me.
“Put your mummy on sweetie. Daddy needs to talk to her”
“No I don’t want to – you will just yell at her. I want to go back to bed.” I start sobbing, I feel the tension in my body, the pressure to get Daddy off the phone. To calm him so he won’t come a kickin’.
“ Sweetie. Does mummy have anyone there with her? A man? Is she slutting around?” He is breathing heavily, starting to lose control again.
“NO!” I quickly yell. “It’s just us two here!” mum and dickhead are frozen, listening to every lie I speak.
“DON’T LIE TO ME!!! SHE’S A SLUT!!! TELL HER I HAVE MY KICKING BOOTS ON!!!” He slams the phone down.
There is dead silence in the room, outside the wind is howling and the rain hits the windows.
Mum lets out a low moan and starts tears silently track a pathway down her cheeks, smearing her dark makeup.
“Go to bed Isabella” she says, trying to pretend all is normal at 2 o’clock in the morning. He gets up, and walks out of the room, she follows him into the bedroom and closes the door. I hear muffled voices as I make my way into the dark and cold room that is my bedroom. I don’t turn on the light in case Daddy sees it and thinks it is a welcome light. I crawl into bed, under the warm covers and lay on my back, staring into the darkness. I know sleep is a long way off, if at all. The night has just begun, I am waiting for the next part to happen because it will.